Welcome to the Liberal Studies program at the University of Illinois Springfield.  You should have received an email with an overview of how your previous courses transferred into the program.  Those details will prove to be useful as you plan for your first semester.

This webpage is not intended to take the place of one-on-one advising, but we  do ask that you review this information first. We believe the information provided on this webpage will support your independence. It will not only answer a lot of your questions, it may help you better understand the questions you need to ask.

When you have finished reviewing this information, let us know how we can help.   If you have basic questions, an email to the program advisor may be the best solution.  If you have a number of questions or just need to talk through the details of your first semester, then a phone call is a better solution.  Feel free to call the program advisor, Andy Egizi, at 217-206-7456.  Andy advises a lot of students so he may not always be in the position to answer the phone. 

Finding Success with Online Courses

Have Realistic Expectations

Online courses offer a greater level of flexibility BUT they are not less work or easier than campus courses. Consider the following.

As a general rule, you should expect to spend 3-4 hours each week for every hour of credit.  You may graduate more quickly if you take 12 hours each semester, but realize that this schedule will require 36-48 hours of work each week.  Can you succeed if you do less work each week?  If your goal is simply to hang a diploma on your wall, then you can probably show less effort and limp through your degree but, if your goal is to be educated and to grow intellectually, you have to invest the necessary time and effort.

If your past experience has been with 100- and 200-level courses, you should expect your 300- and 400-level courses to be more challenging.  This doesn’t mean that the courses you already completed were easy or that your previous school did not challenge you.  Those lower-division courses were meant to provide a foundation of knowledge and skills to prepare you to succeed in more challenging upper-division courses.  So, if you could easily handle 12 hours of lower-division courses in the past, you might consider fewer hours in your first semester of upper-division credit.  This will allow you to get acclimated to more challenging content and to determine whether a heavier schedule in future semesters is in your best interest.

Take Advantage of the Help You Need

Online students have a reputation for being independent, which is great because online learning requires a great deal of independence, but don’t let this prevent you from seeking help.  Students who seek help are not marginal students who are barely making it in college; students who seek help are successful, future college graduates who wisely take advantage of opportunities.  Later in this orientation, you will find details on vital support services like Brookens Library, the UIS Learning Hub, the Career Development Center, and Technology Support.  You can contact these services directly.  The A-Z Index, which is linked at the top of most UIS webpages, is an easy way to find their websites and contact information.

You should also feel free to reach out to your Program Coordinator, Andy Egizi, when you need some guidance or have a question you can’t answer yourself.  If you were an LIS major on our campus, you would stop by Andy’s office if you needed him, so don’t hesitate to call or email.  There are times of the year when it is best to schedule an appointment with Andy.  If you want to reserve a time, you can access his advising calendar to see when he is available.

Embrace the UIS Community

In our experience, LIS majors tend to choose an online program because they are busy with work, with family, and with their communities.  They are deeply involved in their own communities and aren’t necessarily looking to add a new online UIS community to their busy lives.  Still, there is a value to connecting with other online students and with your faculty.  Who else will truly understand your frustration with a difficult assignment, or the stress of staying up late to get a test done before the midnight deadline, or the excitement of getting a great grade after investing so much personal effort into the work?  It’s good to make some UIS friends along the way.

  • Look for open discussion threads on your course discussion boards (many courses provide a place for discussion that is not directly related to class.)
  • Actively participate in course discussion (this not only lets you get to know your classmates, it helps your grade.)
  • If you connect with a classmate, start an UIS email relationship so that you can remain in contact after the semester ends.  Consider starting a study group using Google Hangouts.

In addition to students, you should interact with your faculty.  Let’s be honest, faculty were people long before they earned Ph.D.s and, like all people, some are more communicative than others. So, it is impossible to promise that all of your professors will be anxious to hear from you, but most of them really do want to hear from you and to do what they can to help you succeed.

Consider this thought before you reach out to your professors.  Have you ever heard “there is no such thing as a bad question”?  If so, it is not true; there are lots of bad questions:)  When it comes to interacting with faculty, a bad question is one that you ask before you make an effort to find an answer on your own.  For example, rather than contacting a professor with, “I don’t understand the reading” you might consider asking, “I just finished reading (fill in a difficult reading assignment here.)  I understand that (summarize an important detail here), but I’m not sure what the writer means by (describe the part that confuses you.) This sort of question demonstrates your effort and engages your professor in the teaching process, rather than expecting them to do your thinking for you.

LIS Degree Requirements

Your audit report is a valuable resource.  It includes transfer courses, the courses you’ve completed at UIS, and the UIS courses that you are currently enrolled in. Your audit report is not intended to take the place of academic advising, but it is a tool that all students should use to monitor their progress toward completing degree requirements.

The audit report is unofficial and it is tied to the requirements listed in the catalog of the year you entered UIS. Generally speaking, it will accurately reflect the degree requirements listed in the catalog, but it may not correct present your unique information.  For example it is possible that your transfer courses, which are not part of the UIS catalog, will not be correctly listed on your audit report.  Or, your program may allow you to use a UIS course in a way that is not described in the UIS catalog. Your audit report cannot automatically present exceptions to the catalog requirements, so it may have errors.  You’ll need to resolve errors on your audit report before you graduate by using the Student Petition form.  This will be covered in another part of the program orientation.

Students should review their audit report each semester, and maybe even keep a printed copy, to make sure that their classes are being applied to their requirements as they should be.  If you find a problem with your audit, contact your academic advisor.

The audit report used in this presentation is based upon the actual data from a number of LIS majors.  To protect their privacy, we have removed their names and UINs.  In addition, we have changed all of the students’ grades to A so that their identity would be even less obvious to those who might know them.

Liberal Studies Requirement Set

All Liberal Studies students must complete LIS 301 Self-directed Learning in their first semester.  In this course, you will look forward and anticipate what you will learn in your degree.  We anticipate (and actually hope) that you may not perfectly anticipate what you will learn.  We hope that you will discover new ideas and interests and follow those ideas and interests, even if that means veering away from your LIS 301 plan.  For this reason, Liberal Studies students take LIS 451 Senior Seminar in their final semester.  In this course, you will review what you actually learned.

In addition to the two core courses, you must take at least 12 hours of interdisciplinary electives: courses with the LIS-prefix, African American Studies (AAS) or Women and Gender Studies (WGS) courses, and any UIS course that specifically notes an interdisciplinary approach in the course description.

LIS, WGS, and AAS courses will automatically be added to the requirement on your audit report.  Other options must be added to your audit report using the student petition process.  Contact your program advisor for help with this.

Boyer Category Courses Requirement Set

As you consider course options, you do not need to limit yourself to courses offered by the Liberal Studies program (courses with the LIS prefix.)  Any course can potentially be part of the LIS degree.

You must complete at least 3 upper-division credit hours in each of seven Boyer Categories.  To make organizing your degree a little easier, we have created formal lists of course options for each of the seven Boyer categories.  You will see these lists on your audit report or you can find the lists on the Liberal Studies webpage.

As you can see on the audit report, the system recognizes all of the Boyer category courses listed on this webpage and automatically lists the courses you complete.   If you wish to use a course that has not already been approved by the Liberal Studies program, you must submit a formal petition to request an Exception to Program Requirements.  (You will learn more about petitions later in this orientation.)

Final Review of the LIS Program Requirements

Liberal Studies graduates must earn a minimum of 120 semester hours of credit.  These hours must include at least 48 hours of upper-division (300- and 400-level) credit, with at least 30 of these hours earned with UIS, and must complete all General Education requirements.

Students typically enroll in LIS 301 Self-directed Learning once they have earned 45-60 credit hours or during their first semester in the program if they have already earned more than 60 hours. It is in this first course that they develop a plan for their major. LIS Degree Plans must include:

  • 7 hours Liberal Studies core courses:  LIS 301 Self-directed Learning and LIS 451 Senior Seminar, which must be taking in the final semester of your degree.
  • 10 hours of ECCE (Engaged Citizenship Common Experience) requirements.
  • 3 upper-division hours in each of the seven Boyer categories.
  • At least 12 hours of interdisciplinary electives.

Please realize that the ECCE requirement described here is a minimum. If you love ECCE courses, you can take as many as you like

With the exception of the two LIS core courses, it is possible that a single course may meet more than one of the requirements.  For example, HIS 375 ECCE: Conflict in the Middle east is an approved ECCE course and counts as a Heritage Boyer course so you get two requirements with a single course.  Even better, LIS 432 ECCE: Expatriate Paris is an approved ECCE, counts as a Art Boyer course, and is an LIS-prefix elective so you get three requirements with a single course.

Finally, if you are entering the Liberal Studies program with upper-division transfer credits, you should consider how their content reflects the Boyer categories and submit a petition when you begin designing your degree in LIS 301.

Finding the Courses You Need or Want to Take

The program orientation is used by campus-based and online majors.  The first part of this section will be general information that will help any LIS major.  The final section is for online majors – it will REALLY help you find the courses you need.

Finding the Course Schedule

For this section, we will focus on the Dynamic Course Schedule.

The Dynamic Course Schedule allows you to search the UIS schedule using a variety of search criteria. This allows you to fine-tune your search so that you narrow in on exactly what you want.  You must select a Subject before you click Class Search and you may use the other options to further narrow the results of your search, but in all honestly, it may be best to limit your search criteria to Subject – for most programs, the full list of courses is very manageable without narrowing the list with additional search criteria.

Online Majors

The list of online courses represents the most likely options for Liberal Studies.  We do not include courses with prereqs that the typical LIS major lacks or courses that we know are reserved other students.  The list of courses is divided into categories:  Boyer category courses, ECCE, and General Education so that you can find these requirements efficiently.

What Courses Should You Take Your First Semester?

Students enter the Liberal Studies program at different stages of their degrees so there is no single answer to this question.  In some cases, students enter Liberal Studies late in their undergraduate experience so every course must be carefully selected.  If this is you, then the welcome email you received should have included very specific recommendations for your first semester.  If not, then you have a more flexibility to create a schedule.  We can provide some guidance but the actual classes are ultimately your decision.

  • Unless you’ve already completed LIS 301, it should be on your first-semester schedule.
  • Review your welcome email to make sure you understand your admission status.  That email should have told you how many lower-division (100- and 200-level) credits hours we’ve applied to your degree.  You may include as many as 72 lower-division credit hours in your degree so pay attention to this limit as you consider options.
  • If your welcome email noted General Education deficiency, it would be a good idea to consider these options for your first semester.
  • As you’ve read, you need a series of ECCE courses so they too are a good option for your first semester.
  • If you select upper-division General Education or ECCE courses, consider how they fit into the Boyer categories.  If you are still looking for additional courses, then look for courses that address Boyer categories you haven’t already addressed.

MATH!

It is fairly common for students to enter the Liberal Studies program without having completed a General Education math course.

If you are a campus-based major, you should take the math placement test as soon as possible and plan to include math on your first-semester schedule.  While everyone is different, the reason that many LIS majors have not yet completed General Education math is because they have been avoiding it, which often means that they are uncomfortable with math, which often means that they will need developmental math courses before they can enroll in a GenEd math course.   If you need developmental math courses, you should start this path immediately.

If you are an online major, the same ideas apply, with some differences.  You can absolutely take an online GenEd math course with UIS but UIS, like many schools, does not offer developmental math courses in an online format.  Students who need these courses will need to take them at a local community college.  If you will need developmental math courses you should contact your local community college to discuss math placement as soon as possible.

 General Advice for Students Who Need Math

  • If you feel that you are bad at math, you may need to reframe your perspective.  If you aren’t able to factor a polynomial at this time, then it is more likely that you don’t know how to factor a polynomial than it is that you’re bad at factoring polynomials.  Why burden yourself with the belief that you at bad at something you haven’t learned yet?  This could prove to be a major disadvantage as you start the challenging path to completing a GenEd math course.
  •  It is easier to avoid frustration than it is to engage the things that frustrate you.  It makes sense to think, “I’ll take math next semester,” but there is always a next semester and there is a danger that you’ll continue kicking math down the road until you reach the end of the road – your entire degree completed except for math.  Imagine that you wait until the end of your degree to start thinking about math.  You may end up taking math courses for another 3 or 4 semesters when you could have incorporated those math courses into your past schedules.  Or, worse, you may just give up and never complete your degree.
  • Developmental math courses are not a racket schools use to make more money or a waste of time.  Generally speaking, if a high-school student took four years of math ending with precalculus,  the student should be ready to take a GenEd math course when he or she enters college.  If you did not take these years of math or if it has been many years since you took them, then it is likely you need developmental math courses.  Developmental math courses cover the high school material you either never learned or forgot.

What You Can Do Now to Prepare for LIS 451

You won’t take LIS 451 Senior Seminar until your last semester but you must start preparing for Senior Seminar now.  At that point, you will need to review what you have learned and experienced in all of your UIS courses so, if you don’t organize and archive your learning material for each course, you will have a difficult time passing Senior Seminar, which you must pass in order to graduate.

Using Box

Box is an online service that stores files in the cloud for you. You have 50 GB of UIS Box storage, which is more than enough to organize and archive your learning materials.  (You should have plenty of additional storage for personal files as well.) Box is FERPA compliant.

Organize, Organize, Organize

To prepare for LIS 451 Senior Seminar, please consider doing the following.

Create a Box Sync folder called My LIS Degree. Inside of this folder, create a folder for every course you take at UIS and add the following items:

  • Syllabus
  • Handouts and readings
  • ALL of your written assignments
  • Exams
  • A selection of posts from your online discussion boards that best represent your work in the course
  • Feedback you received from your professor
  • Examples of collaborative work with other students
  • Peer feedback that you gave and received (you should remove the other student’s name

Keeping these documents will not only help you complete LIS 451, it will provide you with a learning portfolio of your accomplishments at UIS.